Pandharpur is one of the revered
pilgrimage sites in Maharashtra. It is located 65 km west of Sholapur, on the banks of the
river Bhimarathi also known as Chandrabhaga.
Pandharpur enshrines Vithoba in a
grand temple, on the banks of the river. Vithoba is a form of Krishna;
the name Vithoba means Father Vitthala. Vitthala is said to have been
derived from the word Vishnu in Kannada.
Panduranga is a sanskritized form of
Pandarga, the old name of Pandharpur. Pundalik, a saint was closely
associated with this shrine, and hence this shrine is also known as Pundarika pura.
Vithoba's consort is Rakhumai or Rukmini.
The worship of Vishnu - Vitthala at Pandharpur is
derived mainly from the puranas and has been augmented by the contribution of the great
Vaishnava saints of Maharashtra from the 13th through the 17th centuries (Namdev,
(Jnaneshwar), Eknath, Tukaram).
This temple covering an a vast area has a total of six
gates. The eatern entrance to this temple is known as the Namdev gate.
The sanctum enshrines a standing image of Vithoba also known as Panduranga, Pandhari or
Stylistically the image dates back to the 5th century
CE. There are inscriptions in this temple dating back to the 13th century. Namdev,
the 13th century saint was closely associated with this temple. Copper plate
inscriptions of the Rashtrakootas place this shrine in the 6th century
CE. There is also a shrine to Pundalik at Pandharpur.